We need BOTH: $100 increase + Double the Grants.

This is testimony that WRC gave on March 10, calling for BOTH a $100 increase AND doubling of the grants. Both are needed to keep up with the cost of living since the grants were last increased. $100 is not enough.

We had hoped that this committee would also hear Senator Eaton’s Senate File 432 today – the bill doubles the cash grant, for both MFIP and General Assistance, alongside this bill. We are not against, SF-734. In fact, we say they  should both pass this year.

The grants should be more than doubled to keep up with the cost of living. According to the federal government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics CPI calculator (http://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/cpicalc.pl), the $532 cash grant for a family of three should be $1,134 today – an increase of 113% since 1986, the last year the grants last went up.

So, if we double the grants AND do this $100 increase, it would get most families where they ought to be. That is how far behind this state is.

Funding:
If MN used all of the federal TANF money for cash grants, that would provide most of the funding needed for both of these bills. Currently, only 28% of the federal TANF money goes to cash grants [http://archive.leg.state.mn.us/docs/2014/mandated/141178.pdf  page 15]. We say all of the TANF money should be used for cash grants. Other programs that get TANF money should be funded with General Fund money.

Most of the TANF fund (36%)  goes to counties in the form of the Consolidated Fund. We can’t find figures for county-by-county spending of this money – for example, we know that some counties offer Emergency Assistance and that some do not. But the first TANF Task Force report [http://archive.leg.state.mn.us/docs/2014/mandated/141178.pdf  page 17] gives a statewide breakdown. Most of the Consolidated Fund goes to job services costs and administration. That should be funded by the General Fund, specifically by DEED, not by TANF money.

This is the year that the state should start doing what it should have been doing all along: Use General Fund money for county administration, country bureaucracy and plum contracts for private non-profits. Use TANF money for TANF families.

The same can be said for all other programs funded by TANF.  Most are good programs, but they can and should be funded by the General Fund.

The TANF money won’t cover all the cost of funding both of these bills. The rest of the funding to pass both these bills should come from the budget surplus this year, and be built into the future.  After the November forecast, we were told that the surplus “wasn’t really $1 billion” because of inflation. If you want to take “inflation” into account, take into account the full cost of keeping up with inflation for the welfare grants. Again, the cost of living has more than doubled since 1986. With the February forecast  coming in at  $1.8 billion, we can very safely declare that this state has a billion-dollar-plus surplus.

That surplus was built on the backs of the poor: 29 years without an increase in MFIP or GA. Lots of people can’t get any help at all. And the state sits on a surplus of $1.8 billion.

As you advocate for budget targets and enter into budget negotiations, we urge you to fully fund both bills. Double the welfare grants and do the $100 increase. The cost of living has more than doubled. 29 years is too long to wait.

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